Taken at the Flood—A Memoir of a Political Life: Vasanth Kannabiran

Review by Kamakshi Balasubramanian Originally published in The Book Review, Vol. XLIV, No. 8, August 2020. Reprinted with permission from The Book Review Literary Trust. Vasanth Kannabiran’s latest book, described in this edition’s back cover as "a feminist memoir", is a great deal more. There are at least three major narrative strands in the book: …

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Alexander Hamilton: Ron Chernow

“Let me tell you what I wish I’d known / When I was young and dreamed of glory / You have no control: / Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” These lines are from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, Hamilton, which was inspired by this biography. The quote seems appropriate. Although Alexander Hamilton was one …

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Natural-Born Heroes—The Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance: Christopher McDougall

On 23 April 1944, a group of British operatives in Crete captured the German General, Heinrich Kreipe, from under the noses of 100,000 German troops, search planes prowling the mountains, and patrol boats checking the shore. Without a shot being fired, the General—a survivor of the Great War who was awarded an Iron Cross—had disappeared. …

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A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Pico Iyer

Review by B.V. Tejah Some travel books are well-suited for pandemic lockdowns. We find ourselves locked inside, while our minds can soar to distant places. These books make us ponder over the nature of faraway cultures; they would be a useless tourist guide and would not include maps. Pico Iyer’s wonderful, odd little book (240 …

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Maya Angelou

“The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.” Three strong black women stand out in this first volume of Maya Angelou’s …

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My Name is Gauhar Jaan! The Life and Times of a Musician: Vikram Sampath

Review by Sadhana Ramchander I have been fascinated by Gauhar Jaan's life ever since I came to know about her. I bought this hard-bound book in the bookshop A A Hussian some years ago but it sat on my shelves for a long time. I finally read it, and am so glad I did because …

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A Book of Silence: Sara Maitland

“It is quite hard to remember which came first—the freedom of solitude or the energy of silence. … I became less driven, more reflective and great deal less frenetic. And into that space flowed silence: I would go out into the garden at night or in the early morning and just look and listen… . …

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The Places in Between: Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart had set out to walk from Iran all the way to Nepal—through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. But in December 2000, when the Iranian government took away his visa, the Taliban refused to allow him to enter Afghanistan. So Stewart had to go directly to Pakistan. At the end of 2001, when he heard …

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32 Yolks: From my Mother’s Table to Working the Line: Eric Ripert

With Veronica Chambers “Only if you cook what you love and truly understand will people be happy with your food.” Good food—how it can sustain you, both physically and emotionally—is the centre of these memoirs. Eric Ripert, a well-known chef, writes about growing up in France and Andorra, and his early years in the kitchens …

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A Broken Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen’s Secret Chord—Liel Leibovitz

“Lots of writers have dared walk up to the edge of reason and stare into that great chasm, into the abyss. Very few people have got there and laughed out loud at what they saw. It’s the divine comedy.” —Bono, on Leonard Cohen You either love or hate Leonard Cohen’s music. I bought Songs of …

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